Dangerous Gate 2022

September 19, 2002

Ota City Gymnasium 

Ota Ward, Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Open The Twin Gate Championship

Dragon Dia & Madoka Kikuta Def. Kung Fu Masters (c) (Jacky “FUNKY” Kamei & Jason Lee)

Madoka Kikuta won his first ever championship with his snap piledriver on Jason Lee. Kung Fu Masters fail in their first defense. Dia and Kikuta are now the 59th Open The Twin Gate Champions.

On the eve of Kikuta’s 23rd birthday, he becomes the final member of the Class of 2020 to win a title. Given the opener slot and Dragon Dia’s pre-existing knee injury, there wasn’t a way for this match to reach the heights of the Twin Gate match at Kobe World Weekend, but I still thought it was excellent.

With Dia’s knee, a match that was going to be reliant on the chemistry between classmates Jacky “FUNKY” Kamei and Kikuta became even more about Madoka Kikuta. After a rather wasted summer where Kikuta looked either unsure of himself or a world beater (rarely), he has found the right home with D’Courage. It’s provided him a lot of inspiration and the six weeks since joining easily surpassed anything he did earlier this summer.

I would have liked to see Kung Fu Masters retain here, but I understand the logic: D’Courage have been the overwhelming focal points of this promotion this year, and it’s going to look a lot more impressive if Dia and Kikuta have belts standing behind Yuki Yoshioka later tonight than otherwise. Jason’s hot tag remains one of the best in the industry and Kamei’s crowd connection will be cashing checks for Dragongate for the next fifteen years, but right now it’s let’s make D’Courage look strong season.  

If Dia’s knee is something he can wrestle on (he didn’t seem especially limited in what he could do, but they were all very careful with him through the match), I think Dia and Kikuta could have a fun reign. I’m a sucker for Big/Short tag teams and this one has a lot of Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwartzenegger in Twins going for it. Given the limitations (less time as an opener and Dia’s knee), I thought this succeeded. The closing stretch with Kamei missing the Project A and then Jason Lee getting murdered with a rolling lariat, D3 and Kikuta’s best ever snap piledriver were the obvious highlights. ****

Yasushi Kanda Def. Kaito Nagano

Kanda pinned Nagano after his Gekokujoh Elbow Drop in a spirited rookie vs veteran affair.

This was Kaito Nagano’s Big Show debut after debuting in August in his hometown of Fukuoka. Much on the smaller side (Minorita, Estrella and Dragon Kid are the only roster members shorter than him), Nagano’s influences of DK and desire to be a high flyer will be the keys to his long-term success. He doesn’t reach out and grab you like how SB KENTo and Takuma Fujiwara have as rookies, so I think he’s going to have to really develop strong flying precision and crowd appeal to reach heights in this promotion.

Yasushi Kanda is often in this role (he was in the Iihashis’  debut in this building last year), and he does a great job with the rookies. This was no different with Nagano. There was a moment where Nagano’s brain was moving faster than his body, but trusty old Candy was there to keep him on track. I’m really looking forward to see how Nagano develops and sets himself apart from the crowded youth ranks in Dragongate and this was a positive step. ***1/4  

Takashi Yoshida, Punch Tominaga, Problem Dragon, & Shachihoko BOY Def. Ultimo Dragon, Genki Horguchi, Kenichiro Arai & Konomama Ichikawa 

Yoshida creamed Ichikawa with the Pineapple Bomber to win this. 

As this was the “touch football” match of the night, where it’s basically the veterans playing their hits and never taking it out of second gear, it’s really hard to not write the same thing every time. Konomama Ichikawa reminded everyone why he’s the best comedy wrestler of all time by following up a perfect Ina Bauer German Suplex on Shachi with a completely failed one on Takashi Yoshida. The finish came as Ichikawa took forever to taunt to set up a Shining Wizard and Yoshida just clobbered him with the Pineapple Bomber to send us home. **1/2

Shuji Kondo & Toru Owashii Def. Kung Fu Masters (Ho Ho Lun & Super Shenlong III)

Kondo won it for the former Aagan Issou pair with a King Kong Lariat on Shenlong

Shuji Kondo couldn’t really make sense of these shouty small guys, especially Jacky “FUNKY” Kamei on the outside. I don’t know if it was bemusement or annoyance, but there could be something going on with the power fighters and kung fu wrestlers, which could be fun.

The return of Super Shenlong III after nearly a decade has been interesting. The Yosuke Santa Maria character outlived its welcome years ago, but they stuck with it long enough that Shenlong coming back is fine. Adapting Maria moves like the Sky Love and Lovely Dive provide a nice continuity and it gave Jae and Jason Lee on commentary stuff to riff on in a pretty standard match (It’s within kayfabe that the unmasked Former Super Shenlong III Yosuke Watanabe became Yosuke Santa Maria with the Millennials. Jae and Jason played up the mystery for laughs).

Kung Fu Masters going 0-2 in their first show away from Kobe was a surprise given the Z-Brats and Natural Vibes feud. Going into Dangerous Gate, it felt like Natural Vibes would be phased out soon and Kung Fu Masters would take its place. Dropping the Twin Gate on your first defense and then getting beat by two part-timers doesn’t give me the utmost confidence in that plan. This was kind of out of position being fourth on a card when it had real opener energy. **3/4

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Gold Class (Naruki Doi, Ben-K & Kota Minoura with Minorita) Def. HIGH-END (YAMATO, Dragon Kid & Kagetora)

Ben-K scored his first pin as a member of Gold Class with a powerbomb on Dragon Kid.

I don’t like editorializing too much whenever I’m pitch hitting on Dragongate reviews, but I feel the need to issue an apology. For years, I have knocked Ben-K’s charisma and ability to be a leading figure in this promotion after expecting him to become this generation’s ace. His Dream Gate run in 2019 didn’t succeed for a multitude of reasons, but central to it was that the crowd didn’t accept him as champion. He was unaffiliated, which never goes well in Dragongate and he was teaming with Shun Skywalker, who was in the midst of his own deep losing streak before he went on excursion. On social media, fans would roast his magazine and newspaper columns saying he sounded like a dumb jock.

After he lost the title, he had the damnedest ability to become a Triangle Gate champion and completely disappear as a presence. That continued until the Final Gate 2020 Dream Gate challenge that put him on the shelf for a month with a concussion. After returning, he teamed with college friend Keisuke Okuda and formed HIGH-END with YAMATO and Dragon Kid, one of the least successful face units in Dragongate history to date. Then this spring, Ben-K watched a whole lot of battle rap videos on YouTube on the bus one day, and ever since he’s been a font of personality. Gold Class Ben-K has quickly become one of my favorite characters in wrestling, and that seems to be replicating amongst the native fanbase as well. Ben-K is now a weird, funny, and profoundly human character and you can’t take your eyes off him.

This trios match built on Ben-K’s turn on HIGH-END greatly exceeded my expectations. Naruki Doi, who has been as nearly invisible as Ben-K in recent months, showed why he was Mr. Ota City with exchanges with his famed Twin Gate partner YAMATO. HIGH-END, which is likely on its last legs as a three person unit, tried to neutralize Minorita at all costs, taking the four man trio on in any fashion that he could. A fantastic closing stretch with Dragon Kid and Ben-K. Because we can’t take our eyes of Ben-K now, and it’s going to be exciting to see what this version of Gold Class becomes. ****1/4

No Disqualification

Z-Brats (KAI, Diamante, BXB Hulk & HYO) Def. Natural Vibes (Kzy, Big Boss Shimizu, Strong Machine J & U-T)

Z-Brats won a restarted No DQ match after HYO hit a top rope senton onto a pile of chairs and U-T.

This went to an early expected disqualification when HYO hit Kzy with a chair in the early minutes of a match. Z-Brats came out with weapons, Natural Vibes got the jump, all eight brawled on the outsides and right after they got back into the ring, the DQ happened.

Afterwards, even more of a brawl broke out. Kzy called HYO out and wanted the rematch but HYO begged off. GM Ryo Saito prevented Z-Brats from walking out and restarted the match with no disqualifications.

The no disqualification portion of the match was abject chaos. Natural Vibes was on the advantage in the early going with Big Boss Shimizu clearing the ring doing the Terry Funk ladder special. Then from the inside out, Kzy did his Silver Bullet slingshot senton over the top rope to the floor ontop of Hulk and a pile of chairs. Diamante and Strong Machine J exchanged unprotected chair shots that broke the chairs. SMJ got his mask significantly ripped by Diamante. Diamante is currently 2-0 in apuestas in Dragongate so if they wanted to go in that direction, Strong Machine J masks could become collectors items. 

The final moments were both brutal and confusing. Natural Vibes set up for Kzy to do a dive from a tall ladder through a table. Then Shun Skywalker’s (currently in America and wrestled for MLW only several hours before) theme played and someone in Skywalker gear, including his closed mouth mask, came out and did his pose allowing Z-Brats to break it up, and Diamante sent Kzy through the table with a ladder assisted powerbomb and a prone Shimizu onto of it.

On commentary, Jae and Ho Ho played this off as obviously not Skywalker and I really hope that they are going Fake Skywalker (something they’ve done in the past with T-Hawk and Naoki Tanizaki) over teleporting Skywalker. I didn’t expect this match to offer any finality in the Natural Vibes and Z-Brats feud without Skywalker actually there. An excellent piece of drama and wrestling that should lead to a scintillating Disbands Match down the line. My questioning of the intention of this portrayal of Skywalker took me out of the insane Kzy ladder bump and finish, it probably would be notebook for someone who didn’t get bothered by that. ***3/4

Open The Triangle Gate Championship

M3K (c) (Masaaki Mochizuki, Susumu Mochizuki & Mochizuki Jr.) Def. Don Fujii, Ishinriki & Ishin Iihashi

M3K makes their second successful defense with Masaaki Mochizuki pinning Ishin Iihashi after an Illusion Kick-Saikyo High Kick combination.

It took everything to keep Ishin Iihashi down. With a new look to end his first year, Ishin will start his second year of professional wrestling tomorrow with all sorts of momentum coming from this second generation feud with Mochizuki Jr. He’s no longer Riki Iihashi’s chunky little brother or on the biggest losing streak out of anyone from the FUTURE class. Ishin was the leading figure in this match and absolutely thrived given the stakes.

There was more genuine confusion about what Don Fujii we were getting in Ota with the drag fake sister character he played in the lead up. Fortunately, it was the Don Fujii we’ve grown to love over the last twenty years and he didn’t figure too much into the match anyways. This entire feud had been about Mochizuki Jr and Ishin Iihashi, and that’s what the match was focused on.

I’ve written before about how fascinating of a wrestler Mochizuki Jr has been and it continued in this title defense. There are fewer and fewer rookie moments with him in each outing, and I’ve found myself having to remind myself that he only debuted in June. He doesn’t have the in-ring acumen of a Takuma Fujiwara, but the composure he displays might be the biggest inherited trait from his legendary father.

There is a history of wrestling legends or just old-timers who will do a Dragon System match as a special guest and they usually stick out like a sore thumb. WIth Ishinriki being 62 years old and his retirement a week and a half away this match could have fallen apart pretty easily. Instead I found myself really becoming enchanted by the former sumo wrestler. His double teams with Fujii were a lot of fun and the triple submission late in the match felt he was having a blast wrestling Dragongate’s particular style.

In the post match, Ishinriki and Masaaki Mochizuki made peace and the Iihashi/Mochizuki feud is now in the past like the Hatfields and McCoys. Ishinriki requested that Ishin would be inducted as a full member of M3K, which Mochizuki hesitated going that far given the feud their sons just had. Instead, Ishin Iihashi joins M3K on a trial run, but Ishinriki is covering the sunglasses, sukajan jacket and razor scooter as a term of Ishin’s induction. M3K probably needs to have some younger roster injections if they are ever going to become more than just a vehicle to get over Mochizuki Jr, and Ishin is definitely ready to enter the unit battlefield. I think this is the right move and am looking forward to seeing some second generation team ups. ***3/4

Open The Dream Gate Championship

Yuki Yoshioka Def. Eita

Yuki Yoshioka pinned Eita after his second Frog Splash to make his second title defense. 

This was one of the most fascinating Open The Dream Gate matches of the post-CIMA era. Eita utterly dominated Yoshioka for 19 of this match’s 24 minutes. It was a strategy he’s been working on for the entire lead up for this Dream Gate match: Laser targeting Yoshioka’s arm from his submission win at Korakuen, outsmarting all members of D’Courage and the referee Mr. Nakagawa so he could subvert the rules to his advantage, just taking Yoshioka’s lunch and absolutely winning this match on the scorecards.

Except there aren’t scorecards in Dragongate. Except those five minutes for Yoshioka were enough for him to prevail.

Eita’s domination felt like a new kind of the Dream Gate epic. For better or worse, years of CIMA and YAMATO led Dream Gate matches with tens of minutes of matwork that was done for indulgence’s sake branded viewer’s brains in what they think of when they think of a Dream Gate match. Eita’s version was incredibly dedicated work dismantling Yoshioka’s arm and then finding good moments for a quick Yoshioka comeback before cutting him off and going back on the attack. In a lot of ways this was worked as if Eita was a travelling world champion working a territory’s hot young babyface in Yoshioka, where the key was working the crowd into a lather over their local star getting their comebacks in on the wily champ. That’s a format that I think thrives in Dragongate with their emphasis on crowd connection, so I liked adapting it here.

The turning point here was when Eita couldn’t get El Numero Uno applied quick enough, so Yoshioka was able to struggle and Eita was forced into going for a pin instead of locking in his signature hold. This allowed the Dream Gate champion to kick out, recover, and then go on offense. An insane series of Yoshioka baseball chopping Eita then headbutting him really got over with the clap crowd. If Dragongate is really going to go full court press with D’Courage, the crowd HAS to connect with Yoshioka. So the fact that this one little segment worked this well gives me a lot of confidence with this business direction.

Eita went for one move too many. Instead of focusing on the arm and going for his super submission Apocalypsis, or dialing in more Imperial Uno superkicks, he put Yuki Yoshioka on the top rope for the Salamander, a devastating avalanche casadora bomb that became his trademark in his big summer of 2016. Yoshioka fought out and instead did a Super Darkness Buster and went into his closing stretch of Frog Splashes.

This match was not really what I expected in the lead up. Yoshioka has been booked so strongly as champion that maybe Eita would be in control for the majority of the match, but surely not almost all of it. Yoshioka now looks like a champion you are going to have to kill with fire, and Eita almost got a full on face turn with how the two complimented the match in the post match and bowing to all sides of the ring after leaving (Doi did this as well after the Gold Class match). 

Yoshioka then said he would like to defend against former Dream Gate champions but did not immediately name which one he wanted. Maybe if we are very good kids we could get Yoshioka versus former Dream Gate champion Magnitude Kishiwada in 2022. Ultimately, I thought this was fascinating, but can see how this kind of match could lead to divergent opinions. ****1/2

Final Thoughts

Dangerous Gate 2022 didn’t reach the highs of some parts of Kobe World Weekend, but I think it’s emblematic of Dragongate in 2022: excellent shows that fly by, maybe without Match of the Year Contenders, but still very much worth your time. It was a strong start for Dragongate’s back half of the year which seems to be leading to more unit wars, a focus on talent under the age of 30, and the dramatic storytelling combined with innovative wrestling that the Dragon System has made its hallmark for the last 23 years. Thumbs Highly Up!